The Only Comfort I Can Think Of

So it seems that I haven’t managed to completely overcome my lack of enthusiasm to blog just yet.

In all honesty, I haven’t been feeling too great lately, for a whole mix of reasons, and it’s not easy to write when you’re feeling low. Not much really seems very worthwhile and even less seems interesting enough to photograph, take the time to write about and then share with you, my lovely readers.

As you may be aware, these low moods aren’t exactly a rarity in my life, but sometimes it still takes me a while to realise when one has become particularly invasive in my life. It’s only really over the past weeks or so that I’ve noticed the effects and tried to put some steps into action to help pick me up.
Mostly this involves remembering to make time for and to appreciate small comforts. While the changing light might have something to do with my changing mood, I do find that Autumn is a a great time for small comforts – blankets, hot chocolate, fallen leaves 🙂

As I’m (rapidly) approaching the end of my PhD I do have loads of work to be doing during the day, so I’m trying to keep my evenings free and dedicated to relaxing and trying to make myself feel better.

Jumpers and Blankets. 
I also really want to get a onesie 🙂

Long, Hot Baths

Good Food
Homemade Toffee Apple Crumble

Good Food with Ice Cream
Movies
Rekorderlig
Especially Apple and Blackcurrant
Chocolate
Anyone tried this?

Time with my boys


Making and Baking
I’ve been doing a lot of craft and making things. Partly just as a break, but also in preparation for Christmas
It is really nice to take time for myself and just relax, and trying not to feel too guilty about it. I only wish I had a wood stove, that would be the ultimate in comfort and relaxation.
Hope you are all well. I do have posts lined up that I want to write. Hopefully improving my general mood will improve my blogging motivation.
Love

Homemade Nutella

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Nutella. I’d always rather have a straight-up, no messing chocolate spread than a hazelnut chocolate spread. However, I first decided to make my own ‘Nutella’ a few months ago when I was reading Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ book and cookbook and really trying to reduce the amount of processed foods and sugars in my diet.
Recently I have let things slide a bit and have been no where near as good at watching what I eat. However, I still always have a jar of this spread in my fridge for some slightly-less-guilty snack time. As it’s based on Sarah Wilson’s recipe it is low sugar and so much healthier than regular Nutella – not that that’s hard, real Nutella is more than 50% sugar (56.7g of sugar per 100g). I am personally horrified that this stuff is advertised as a great breakfast for kids, and don’t even get me started in Nesquik….anyway.

Honestly, this so yummy and really not very hard to make – I have it smothered on rich tea biscuits, often as a mid-afternoon snack 🙂

The recipe is based on one from Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook, I have made some changes based on personal taste and availability of ingredients.

Homemade (Low-Sugar) Nutella

  • 1 cup nuts – I have mostly used hazelnuts (obviously), but have also tried mixing in some other nuts, particularly Brazils, but you can experiment
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (Sarah Wilson states Raw Cacao, as this doesn’t have added sugar, I have used both raw cacao and regular cocoa and don’t notice much difference in taste)
  • 4 tablespoons honey (Sarah uses Brown Rice Syrup as this contains more complex sugars, but I have found it really hard to get hold of and, personally, have no problem with honey!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon nut oil (Sarah says Macadamia, I use Groundnut, but I don’t see why you can’t just use your own oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (again, Sarah says coconut but I use soy but regular milk, or any other milk should be fine. Amount can be increased or reduced depending on your desired final texture)
  1. Spread nuts on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes (until browned)
  2. Rub as much of the skin off the nuts as you can
  3. Grind nuts in a blender/food processor (I only have a mini food chopper, which doesn’t completely puree the nuts but I quite like the slightly rough texture it produces)
  4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar* and keep in the fridge
The latest batch that I made and photographed actually turned out a little thicker and drier than past batches, which you can kind of see in the pictures. I think I may not have put enough milk in. You can also see it’s  not as smooth as ‘proper’ Nutella, but that’s because of the limitations of my food processor, I quite like the chunks, makes it feel a bit healthier 😉 It’s still yummy despite all this 🙂
In theory, having this should help me be healthier, if I eat a couple of rich teas with this spread instead of a more calorific dessert. I’m still working on that in practise though :/
Anyone discovered any interesting or different recipes lately?
Love

*To sterilise a jar, wash it and place the jar and lid (not a plastic lid) in the oven at around 150 degrees C for 20 minutes. Fill and seal jar straight from the oven (using oven gloves!)

Betty Bakes: Rocky Road

Ok, so the weather this weekend is really not ideal for baking in, but I really wanted to share this recipe for Rocky Road. I love Rocky Road and I made a big batch for my recent birthday and it went down rather well 🙂 I really recommend keeping it in the fridge if you do have a go while it’s this hot though.

I hope you’re all enjoying the nice weather. I love the sunshine, but must admit, I’m melting a little in the heat!

Love,

PS. Let me know if it’s too hard to read. I wasn’t sure about white, but couldn’t pick another colour either :/

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Now it is December, I can just about allow myself to think about Christmas.
For a number of reasons, I am trying to do a Nothing New/Handmade type gifts this year. Basically, no big brand goods. I haven’t had as much time for trawling charity shops or crocheting as I had hoped, so it’s looking like a lot of my gifts are going to be food based!

Yesterday I made Vegan Chocolate Truffles that are (hopefully) going to be Christmas presents (if I don’t eat them all first). They were so easy to make, so I guess if I do eat them all I can always just make more (although I may not fit into my party dress).



Recipe


The recipe is actually really adaptable, so I’ll give you the ingredients I used but also some suggestions for variations that you might want to try.

I used;

  • Approximately 100g of cashew nuts (mine weren’t roasted, you could use roasted but only if they’re not salted too)
  • A small amount of soy milk (you could easily substitute with regular cow’s milk, any other type of milk substitute or even just water)
  • 400g dark chocolate (I used dark and made sure it had no milk/animal ingredients to make mine vegan, but you can use milk chocolate if you prefer and don’t need to make them vegan friendly)
  • A good glug of Kahlua (there are so many alternatives you can use here, any spirit/liqueur you like – Baileys, Whiskey, Rum maybe even Creme de Menthe for an interesting minty twist? Or you can skip the alcohol all together and use a teaspoon of vanilla essence or other food flavour essence)
  • Some cocoa powder and/or icing sugar
  • You will need some kind of food processor, doesn’t need to be fancy, I used my small Kenwood Mini Chopper and it was fine.
The number you make will depend on the size of your final truffle, but using teaspoons full of the mixture I made about 28 truffles from these ingredients.
How to;

1. Soak the cashew nuts in water until soft. Some recipes will recommend you do this overnight, but I only soaked mine for 2 or 3 hours and they were fine. Once soft, drain off the water.
2. Put the cashews into you food processor and blend until you have a reasonably smooth paste. Add the soy milk/alternative as required to help the paste form without making it too wet. I found I had to mix a bit then scrape around with a spatula to make sure all the bits got mixed. My final paste looked and felt quite gritty, so it doesn’t need to be totally smooth. I didn’t use mine straight away so put it in a jar in the fridge until I was ready to make the truffles.
3. Melt your chocolate. Usually I’m a microwave chocolate melter, but as I was using so much chocolate and wanted this recipe to go well, I used the old pyrex bowl over a pan of hot water method. Once it’s all melted take it off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before the next step.
It’s really hard to resist dipping your finger in 400g of melted chocolate 🙂

4. Now combine your cashew nut paste and chocolate and add your spirit/liqueur/flavour of choice. Make sure you stir it thoroughly so that the chocolate goes all the way through the nut paste. Once combined, cover the mixture and put it into the fridge for maybe half an hour. The chilling is necessary or you will really struggle to make the truffle balls.

My combined chocolate and nut paste

5. Now it’s time to make truffles! Take small amounts of the mixture (depends on the size of truffle you want, I used teaspoon sized scoops) and roll it in your hands to create a rough spherical truffle shape, the roll in your cocoa powder and/or icing sugar. Most truffles come rolled in cocoa powder but I always think this is too bitter so I mixed my cocoa with some icing sugar to take the edge off. The rolling can help you get the shape as well, as it will stop them sticking to your hands. I placed my finished truffles in mini cake cases, but they can just be placed on a tray covered with greaseproof paper or cling film.
This stage can get very messy, I had to wash the excess chocolate and cocoa powder off my hands after about 3 or 4 truffles.

6. The truffles need to be left to set, you can do this in the fridge but I just left mine on the side as my fridge is far too tiny to accommodate a whole tray of truffles as well as it’s regular inhabitants.

And, that’s it!

So far, I’ve managed to only eat one, and that was a necessary tester! The final product is probably a little firmer than I was expecting, maybe a bit more fluid in the nut paste, or a bit more nut paste in the overall mixture might fix that. Or I might just pour a load more Kahlua on a couple and see what that does.

Now, mine probably aren’t going to win any beauty prizes, but if they looked too good people might not believe I made them!

I keep thinking of more variations that I could try; coating the finished truffle in chopped nuts, or having a whole nut in the centre, or a whole nut inside and chopped nuts outside for your own sort of Ferrero Rocher, or topping with sprinkles, putting a whole raspberry in the middle, making them with white chocolate, making them with some of the fancy flavour chocolates from Hotel Chocolat (like their caramel flavour chocolate!)…..I think this list could go on. Any other suggestions are welcome too.

I do have one specific variation in mind that I will let you know about once I’ve tried it to see if it works.

As a final note, I would like to welcome my newest blog followers! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this post and my others to come.

I hope December is going well for you so far, and that the build up to Christmas isn’t causing you too much stress or annoyance!

Love,
Betty
x

Chocolate Week

You may or may not be aware that this past week has been Chocolate Week. If I’m honest, I really don’t need an officially dedicated week to encourage me to celebrate the joy that is chocolate, but I’m happy to use it as an excuse to talk about the stuff!
I’ve had a bit of a crumby second half of the week really, what with a huge work load, absolutely zero motivation and some strange semi-illness that keeps rearing it’s head and making me feel very weak, tired and fuzzy. However, on Friday my perfect crappy-day cure arrived in the post, in the form of my Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Tasting Club box!

A selection of chocolates from this months Tasting Club

I’ve been a member of The Chocolate Tasting Club for about six months now, and I’m a big fan. If you haven’t heard of Hotel Chocolat or The Chocolate Tasting Club, the you’re definitely missing out. Hotel Chocolat is a high-quality UK chocolate brand selling what they describe as ‘artisan chocolates’. They have an absolutely stunning range of products, from basics like slabs of milk, white and dark (up to 85% cocoa) chocolate through caramels, truffles, pralines and chocolate coated fruits, to seasonal cocktail flavours and Halloween/Christmas/Easter themed chocolates (their Easter eggs are amazingly thick). Everything is beautifully finished and usually, as good to look at as to eat. Another bonus is their strong ethical policy, which is spelled out fully in their website, so you can be sure of getting an ethically produced product. Some of their dark chocolates are even vegan friendly! While all this high quality does mean that their chocolate is more expensive than your standard supermarket chocolate, as far as I’m concerned, it’s easily worth the extra money. The luxury and indulgence of proper chocolate is hard to beat, plus I like the fact that, as it’s a bit more expensive, I savour it more and usually don’t eat quite as much!

Anyway, onto The Chocolate Tasting Club. The Chocolate Tasting Club is a monthly subscription service run by Hotel Chocolat, that sends you a selection of Hotel Chocolat chocolates to taste and evaluate. There are three selections to choose from; Classic gives you a bit of everything, Dark gives you only dark chocolates and Elements gives you a selection of most of the range, excluding alcoholic chocolates. I started on the Classic Selection, but I was wasting too many of the strong alcohol ones, so have now switched to the Elements Selection, which I’m getting on with better.

So, once a month I get a beautifully packaged box of luxury chocolates arrive through my letterbox (the boxes are specifically designed to fit through letterboxes, so no need to make a trip to the sorting office if you’re out when it arrives!). I’ve already spoken about my excitement at receiving pretty, well packaged parcels, and this is no different, if anything, it’s more exciting as I don’t know what wonderful chocolates I’m going to get until I open the box and read the menu.

A previous selection, with Lemon Cheesecake Slab (top right) 5*

 It’s nice to be able to try some different types of chocolate without having to shell out for a full pack. As much as I love chocolate, I do tend to go for the same things, the ones I know I like, so these boxes help me try new things. I had no idea I liked praline as much as I do, and I’m not sure I would have ever picked up the white chocolate lemon cheesecake slab in the shop, but it is absolutely fantastic! I would thoroughly recommend the club to anyone who really loves their chocolate (as a member you also get a card that entitles you to 5% discount on purchases in-store or on the website.

If you haven’t already done so, go celebrate what’s left of Chocolate Week while you still can!
Love,
Betty
x

Lemon Curd and Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I got to make cupcakes yesterday as we were having some people over for a little party to celebrate the fact that my boy is back in the country. As much as I love baking, I’m still trying to limit myself to only making things when I know there will be a lot of other people to eat them before I do :/ To capitalise on the opportunity I decided to make two different types of cupcake, a lemon curd cupcake and a chocolate caramel cupcake.
The recipes might seem a little odd, I decided not to go for the full vegan recipes this time, but still had to substitute some ingredients for vegan alternatives as my boyfriend doesn’t eat dairy.

Lemon Curd Cupcake:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of vegan margarine
1/2 cup soy milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons lemon curd

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and margarine with an electric whisk or in a food mixer.
Add half the milk and the lemon curd and mix until just blended.
Whisk the egg into the remaining milk, then gradually add to the bowl, mixing until smooth.
Put the mix into cases and bake for 20 -25 minutes at 170 degrees.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled I spread a small amount of lemon curd over the top, then frosted. I cheated on the frosting and used a tub of Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting and coloured it yellow (I probably only used about half the tub).

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes:
3/4 and 2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
1/2 cup soy milk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and margarine with an electric whisk or food mixer.
Whisk the egg and vanilla into the milk, add half into the mixture and mix until blended.
Add the remaining milk mixture and mix until smooth.
Put into cases and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 170 degrees.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled, I cut holes in the top of each and filled with a teaspoon of caramel (some were filled with vegan butterscotch sauce for Pete) the replaced the cut holes and frosted with Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

I still ate more of the cakes than I should have, and have a small selection left, but it’s still better than eating 24 cupcakes on my own.
The chocolate caramel cupcakes were amazing. The lemon curd ones were also nice, but not to quite the same level. They may have been a little too sweet, might have been better with lemon juice and zest in the cake mix rather than lemon curd, but still putting the lemon curd on top.

The cocktail umbrellas were really just for fun. I bought a box of about 150, months ago and need to think of uses for them!

Hope you’ve all had a good weekend.
Betty
x

The problem with falling in love online

I needed to pay a visit to the city centre today as I had a hairdressers appointment, and I couldn’t have let the occasion pass without a little bit of shopping!
Obviously, my first port of call was Topshop to see the wonderful coat that captured my heart last week! Alas, the dangers of falling in love with a picture on a website were all too evident 😦 The faux fur was coarse, the leopard spots were a lot more spot and not very much leopard, and, worst of all, the fit was altogether unflattering. At least there was no call for wrestling with my conscience on the shop floor over whether I could justify parting with £98. I don’t see how I could have justified more than £20 for it.

So, as I technically saved myself nearly a hundred pounds, I bought myself a few little treats.
I happened to be walking in the vicinity of Hotel Chocolat, and the gravitational pull of all that chocolate dragged me right through the door. They were giving out samples of their Raspberry Ripple Puddles, which were very nice indeed. I don’t know how it happened, but before I knew it I was stood in the queue with a selection of yummies. I got salted caramel and praline marbles, Dizzy pralines, Salted Soft Caramels and Dark Chocolate Brownie Chocs. The salted caramel and praline marbles are amazing, I had them before quite a while ago but then they were discontinued, but now they’re back and I’m very pleased 🙂 I know I’m on a diet, but with fancier (and pricier) chocolates like these I don’t eat them in a binge like I might a bar of Galaxy, I eat them more slowly to properly enjoy them, so overall I eat less. That’s my theory anyway.

Even the Hotel Chocolat bag makes me smile 🙂

My yummy treats 🙂

I also picked up some new nail varnishes, as I’ve been painting my nails a lot recently. I haven’t actually bought nail varnish in a while, so was enjoying looking at all the awesome colours, took me a while to pick any, but ended up with a pale-ish pink, a coral and a white, all from Rimmel. I like Rimmel nail varnishes, as they have loads of colour and at £3, they’re not too expensive.

 Hairdressers appointment isn’t much to comment on. I was being a colour model, which meant free colour. The toner they used on my blonde was great, and I’ll be getting that done again. The colour, well, I like the colours in themselves, but the way they’ve been applied is a bit too subtle for my liking. I may take a pic for you or I may not. Most likely, I’ll put another colour in there within the next few days, make it more me.

I think that’s more than enough of me for now,
Hope you’re well,
Betty
x